What is Biotensegrity in Yoga?

bike wheel

What is Biotensegrity in Yoga?

Biotensegrity is a term coined by an orthopedic surgeon, Stephen Levin who applied the model of tensegrity to the human body. Tensegrity is a term coined by Buckminster Fuller who described architecture as a balance of discontinuous compression elements combined with continuous forces of tension in your body. Imagine how a bridge uses tension and compression forces in its construction.

Another example of tensegrity would be:

A weighted bicycle wheel. Can you visualize how the wheel changes shape when you sit on it? The wheel becomes stronger with the constant tension of compression on it and yet as the wheel moves the compression upon it varies or is discontinuous. 1

So what does this have to do with Yoga?

Biotensegrity suggests that your muscles and bones, what we previously considered the main building blocks of the structure of our body, is really being held in place by the fascia or connective tissue. There is one continuous fascia web that holds everything together. Our bones never touch and they do not stack on top of each other. Instead, they are held in place by this constant tension and compression of the fascia.

Yes, your bones are floating in the tension of your fascia!

With this understanding, I conceptualize my body in a more holistic way. The inside of my body is a rainforest-like damp place in which everything inside is becoming everything else. For example, my fascia tissue becomes my ligaments, which become my bones. And it’s not just my bones that support my muscles or my muscles that support my bones, but all parts of the body support each other in a dynamic relationship. Breath, movement, gravity, and even, our ideas all work together to find a harmonious balance. And that’s when I feel good in my body.

How we teach as yoga teachers must change to accommodate this relatively new understanding of the body.

For example, I encourage my knees to find a gliding sensation, a loosening, and ease as I move in non-linear ways.

When I stand, I imagine my internal body with hollow spaces and my joints as flowing energy, like a waterfall. Then my adrenal glands relax more, and there’s a sense of softness and strength at the same time.

The power of a deep breath to soothe the mind and body, something the Yogis have known for years, is now being understood in the Western model of health.

Stepping out of this constant push for a better pose, more tension and holding in strong poses (asanas), has great benefits for the internal health of the fascia, muscles, and bones. In Yin yoga, we “stress” the ligaments, tendons, and fascia to create longevity and health so the fibroblasts cells can rejuvenate joint areas. (Also, remember also 30% of our muscles are fascia).

This isn’t a new theory for yogis; they call it Sukham and Sthira – The balance of ease and effort. And this is yet another way in which I experience the balance and holistic nature of yogic knowledge from another perspective.

Please add your thoughts and comments.

Reference articles:

Lucy St. John